STEM grant awarded to Math/Stat Department
Last year, the APLU was awarded a 5-year, $3,000,000 collaborative NSF grant called SEMINAL (Student Engagement in Mathematics through an Institutional Network for Active Learning). Through SEMINAL, faculty will collaborate to better understand both how to sustain success in implementing active learning in undergraduate mathematics classes and how to influence similar success at other institutions. In January 2018, 9 more universities joined the grant, including Loyola University Chicago which was the first private university to be awarded this grant.
Active Learning of Mathematics is defined as teaching methods and classroom norms that promote:
- students’ deep engagement in mathematical reasoning;
- peer-to-peer interaction; and
- instructor interest in and use of student thinking.
Loyola's application was judged based on the following criteria:
- Curriculum should focus on key mathematical ideas (sense making & procedural fluency).
- Students propose questions, communicate reasoning, & share solutions in process.
- Instructors promote student engagement & build on student thinking."
Loyola has strong motives for pursuing the SEMINAL grant. For one, students who do poorly in a pipeline (precalculus and calculus) math course greatly reduce their options for majoring in STEM fields and pursuing STEM related jobs. By improving student success rates and confidence in pipeline math courses at Loyola, we hope pipeline math courses at Loyola serve as a gateway to STEM not a barrier. Secondly, enrollment in pipeline mathematics courses at Loyola is soaring: the result both of growing numbers of incoming freshmen and the recent introduction of new STEM initiatives, including the Engineering Science Program, Applied Mathematics Major, as well as some work behind the scenes. Our targeted introductory courses (Math 117/118 and Math 161/162) play a crucial role in increasing the number of students from underrepresented populations like Women in STEM. Finally, the largest study of undergraduate STEM education literature to date — a meta-analysis of 225 studies published by the National Academies in 2014 — stated that undergraduate students in classes using active learning methods had higher course grades by half a letter grade, and students in classes with traditional lectures were 1.5 times more likely to fail.
The Department of Mathematics and Statistics is excited and honored to be awarded this grant, as we seek to prepare people to lead extraordinary lives.